That San Miguel Beermen pulling off a "beeracle" (first team in basketball history to win a seven-game series after being down 0-3) wasn't the only rare moments that happened in Game 7 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals last night.
First, Alaska Aces regulars Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, RJ Jazul, and Sonny Thoss were absent from the starting lineup as head coach Alex Compton opted to field veterans Erik Menk, Samigue Eman, Dondon Hontiveros and Rome dela Rosa (who had not seen action in the series prior to Game 7) ahead of them with Aces scorer Cyrus Baguio to begin the game.
Pretty gutsy—and somewhat understandable—move, right? But then the bizarre happened when the Aces called the first of its three consecutive timeouts a second into the game.
Yes, you read that right: Compton called a timeout a SECOND into the first quarter...and then followed it up with two more, burning the team's three mandatory timeouts for the game.
And then it got even stranger as he immediately sent in Thoss, Manuel, Abueva, and Jazul to join Baguio at the resumption of play.
Unsurprisingly, like the thousands in attendance, those watching at home were left scratching their heads after witnessing these unexpected stunts.
Basketball pundits first thought the ploy was meant to throw off the opposing team.
If ever this was indeed the team's goal, then the Aces picked the wrong team to play mind games on as the Beermen obviously had laser-sharp focus coming into the pivotal do-or-die match. We mean, how else would they be able to stretch the series to a supposedly improbable Game 7 if they were unprepared to bring their A-game in the first place?
Some poked fun at the odd turn of events, like sportscaster Mico Halili.
Meanwhile, former PBA and national team head coach Chot Reyes said Compton's moves were reminiscent of the tactics employed by a few PBA coaching greats in the past. (In Alaska's case, however, the strategy backfired.)
The most plausible reason for Compton's plans came from TV5 commentator James Velasquez:
Supposedly, the Aces were planning to reduce the mandatory TV timeouts so they could continuously apply pressure on the Beermen on both ends of the floor. SMB did have a harder time converting fastbreak points, though Alaska had offensive misfires of their own.
When Finals MVP Chris Ross was having a field day from downtown (4-of-6 from deep) and designated Alaska shooters JV Casio and Jazul couldn't even buy a bucket, you know there's something wrong.
Compton, meanwhile, chose to keep mum about his strategy in a post-game interview, saying "Maybe that's something I'll keep close to my vest and for you guys to see if I'll gonna do it again," he was quoted by Spin.ph as saying.
In the end, these maneuvers turned out to be nothing more than mere theatrics, with the Beermen bringing home the hardware, 96-89, and rewriting basketball history.